Energy drinks may pose a danger

18 Dec

The American Academy of Pediatrics is reporting at its site, Healthy Children.Org in the study, Energy Drinks Can Harm Children

Energy drinks may pose a risk for serious adverse health effects in some children, especially those with diabetes, seizures, cardiac abnormalities or mood and behavior disorders.

A new study, “Health Effects of Energy Drinks on Children, Adolescents, and Young Adults,” in the March issue of Pediatrics (published online Feb. 14), determined that energy drinks have no therapeutic benefit to children, and both the known and unknown properties of the ingredients, combined with reports of toxicity, may put some children at risk for adverse health events.

Youth account for half of the energy drink market, and according to surveys, 30 percent to 50 percent of adolescents report consuming energy drinks. Typically, energy drinks contain high levels of stimulants such as caffeine, taurine, and guarana, and safe consumption levels have not been established for most adolescents. Because energy drinks are frequently marketed to athletes and at-risk young adults, it is important for pediatric health care providers to screen for heavy use both alone and with alcohol, and to educate families and children at-risk for energy drink overdose, which can result in seizures, stroke and even sudden death.

Several deaths have been attributed to energy drinks.

The Washington Post reports in the articleEnergy drink popularity booms at college, despite health concerns:

A 2008 study of undergraduates at a large public university found that 39 percent of students had consumed at least one energy drink in the past month, with considerably higher rates for males and white students. The study, funded with a National Institute on Drug Abuse grant, noted that energy drink marketing tactics are “similar to those used to sell tobacco and alcohol to youths….”

Red Bull, which hit the country in the late 1990s, is credited with creating this industry using a Thai recipe. Today there are hundreds of energy drinks on the market, ranging from 1.93-ounce 5-Hour Energy shots to 32-ounce cans of Monster. Even Starbucks has gotten into the game, producing sparkling energy drinks and canned espresso beverages.

That proliferation has intensified debate about a long-standing question: Are energy drinks safe?

The focus of that question is often one of the main ingredients: caffeine. Energy drinks contain from 2.5 to 35.7 milligrams of caffeine per ounce; energy shots may have as much as 170 milligrams of caffeine per ounce, according to researchers.

As more young people consume energy drinks, more problems are occurring.

Daniel J. DeNoon of WebMD Health News reports in the article, More Deaths, Illness Linked to Energy Drinks which was reviewed by Louise Chang, MD reports:

Nov. 16, 2012 — The FDA has posted adverse-event reports for two more energy drinks: 40 illnesses and five deaths linked to Monster Energy, and 13 illnesses and two lasting disabilities linked to Rockstar Energy.

The new reports follow this week’s revelation of FDA reports linking 92 illnesses and 13 deaths to 5-Hour Energy shots. The FDA previously said it was investigating the deaths linked to Monster Energy.

These adverse-event reports (AERs) are filed by patients, families, or doctors. They simply warn that the products might have harmed someone — but they do not prove that the product caused harm. The FDA can remove a product from the market only when investigation shows that the product causes harm when used according to the product label.

“If we find a relationship between consumption of the product and harm, FDA will take appropriate action to reduce or eliminate the risk,”  FDA public information officer Shelly Burgess says.

Moreover, the reports do not offer details on any underlying medical conditions that may have led to product-related illnesses.

The reports, some dating back to 2004, are not a complete inventory of all events that product users may have suffered. Most people, and many doctors, do not know how to file these reports or do not get around to filing them. And even when a product actually causes an illness, a user or doctor may not associate the product with the illness.

The new reports detail the events suffered by users of 5-Hour, Monster, and Rockstar energy drinks. These include:

  • Deaths due to heart attack or suicide linked to 5-Hour Energy
  • A miscarriage linked to 5-Hour Energy
  • Convulsions, life-threatening fear, deafness, and hemorrhage linked to 5-Hour Energy
  • Deaths due to heart attack or loss of consciousness linked to Monster Energy drink
  • Hospitalization due to irregular heartbeat, severe diarrhea, migraine, psychotic disorder, heart attack, and/or vomiting linked to Monster Energy drink
  • Disability from irregular heartbeat or stroke linked to Rockstar Energy drink
  • Hospitalization due to psychotic disorder, increased heart rate, or loss of consciousness linked to Rockstar Energy drink

All of these reports are collected by the product manufacturers. Because they market their products as nutritional supplements, they are required to submit them to the FDA.

There are many reasons why people use energy drinks.

Barbara Aufiero reports in the Livestrong article, Why Do People Buy Energy Drinks?

Daytime Sleepiness

Many people depend on coffee to start their day. Caffeine boosts your energy and causes you to feel more alert and awake. Since these effects wear off after a few hours, you may experience a mid-afternoon lull shortly after lunch. Energy drinks can provide the extra oomph that you seek in order to get through your day. These energy drinks are often marketed towards young adults who have responsibilities in addition to work, such as family obligations, or aspirations to further their education.

Lack of Sleep

The regular use of energy drinks may be indicative of an underlying condition such as fatigue or insomnia, according to registered dietitian Kara Mitchell from Duke University. Fatigue is a symptom of a multitude of mental and physical health conditions. Fatigue caused by insomnia or lack of sleep is treatable. However, frequent use of energy drinks may mask the underlying condition. Energy drinks may also cause adverse health conditions such as irritability and high blood pressure, according to Mitchell.


The majority of energy drinks do not contain alcohol. Mixing alcohol with energy drinks is not uncommon among college students and young adults. The idea is that caffeine will reduce the sedative effects of alcohol and make you more alert. Researchers assessed the attention and reaction times of young adult drinkers between the ages of 21 and 30, after drinking energy drinks with alcohol. This study was published in the February 2011 issue of “Addiction,” and found an association between alcohol and impairments in attention and reaction. However, the addition of caffeine did not mitigate these impairments.

Increase Performance

Energy drinks and sports drinks, like Gatorade and Powerade, are not interchangeable. As such, they may be kept in separate aisles at supermarkets. Dr. Edward Laskowski of the Mayo Clinic suggests drinking water or sports drinks when you exercise, not energy drinks. One reason is that sports drinks replenish fluids and electrolytes, whereas energy drinks do not. Another reason is that the caffeine in energy drinks may cause restlessness, headaches, nausea and tremors. Excessive use is associated with chest pains, seizures, heart attack and even sudden cardiac death.

Whatever benefit there is to the use of energy drinks must be weighed against the risks which can be substantial for some individuals.


Energy Drinks (Audio Description)

Nutrition and Sports

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One Response to “Energy drinks may pose a danger”


  1. University of Buffalo study: Caffeine affects boys and girls differently | drwilda - June 22, 2014

    […] As more young people consume energy drinks, more problems are occurring. […]

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